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Bridge replaced over Carson River

by Linda Hiller

A bridge over Carson River waters will be replaced after three years of being impassable.

The bridge, south of Gardnerville and north of where the old Ruhenstroth power dam once stood, was fatally damaged in the 1997 New Year’s flood, and since then, efforts to repair it hit snags.

“The tribe asked Sen. (Richard) Bryan to intervene and get it built,” said Bryan’s rural director Tom Baker. “We were on a tour of the Valley a while back, and Brian Wallace came up and talked to the senator about it. That’s when I got involved.”

Baker said damage to the bridge came under the repair jurisdiction of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and as such, would involve replacing the old bridge with a similar one.

“That was a low water crossing bridge, and every time there was high water on the river, the bridge would be under water,” Baker said. “It had washed out several times. Instead, we thought, ‘Let’s get this bridge replaced once and for all so it isn’t another low water crossing.’ Because of that, it had to go back as part of the budget, and that’s what slowed things up.”

– Colorado agency oversees. Because the bridge site is on Bureau of Indian Affairs land on one bank and United States Forest Service land on the opposite side, a federal agency, the Federal Highway Administration will oversee the project, according to Construction Operations Engineer Ed Hammontree of Denver, Colo.

“We provide engineering services to other federal agencies on projects that are on federal land or that access federal land,” he said. “Since part of the bridge is on forest service land and part of it is on Washoe tribe land through BIA, it falls to us. We’re coordinating forest service and the tribe and updating permits. We’ll have two people there – one is a project engineer and the other is an inspector.”

The project is funded by Emergency Relief for Federally Owned roads, as a result of the flood damage in 1997, Hammontree said.

– Granite wins bid. Several bids were submitted Feb. 8 and Granite Construction was awarded the $1.07 million contract last week. A preconstruction contract hearing Friday laid out the specifics of the project, which is expected to begin in a few weeks.

Brian Roll, Granite’s construction supervisor, said the two-lane bridge will be constructed from approximately 247 cubic meters of concrete in a standard precast girder construction.

This involves pouring six “cast in drilled holes” for the huge columns of concrete – 3 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep – that will bore into the riverbed. Workers will pump out the water while pumping in the concrete. During this process, the river will be diverted to one side with the aid of bulldozers while the holes are dug and filled with concrete, he said.

“This bridge is designed to rest 15 feet above the river and not flood every time there is high water in the river,” Roll said. “It will be bigger than the old one and have a haystack approach. It will be an all-season permanent structure. It’s no problem making it flood-proof, since it would take a 15-foot wall of water to damage it.”

Two piers of concrete will rest secured on the columns and the middle part of the bridge will abut those structures, creating the 180-foot span.

Roll said Granite will be getting permits and certifications through the highway administration before construction begins (hopefully, he said) the first week in April.

“We hope to be done by September, but if everything goes perfectly, it could be done in June,” Roll said. “Our contract goes to November 30, but it won’t take that long.”

– Dresslerville access opens. Dan Kaffer, Western Nevada Resource, Conservation and Development Area Coordinator, said the bridge replacement was one of the FEMA projects designated for attention following the flood.

“Sometimes these projects get backlogged, and it’s hard to tell the reasons,” he said. “I think it’s great they’re finally getting around to it. After the flood, there was a big hole there and the river was flowing through it. I’m sure the bridge will be important to the people of Dresslerville, who will be able to use it again.”